29 July 2004

I don't usually like to go after Sen. Ted Kennedy. Not because it's undeserved, mind you, but because it's not very sporting. I mean, it's less like shooting fish in a barrel than like shooting a fish duct-taped to the end of your gun. But, sometimes, a disgruntled reactionary's gotta do what a disgruntled reactionary's gotta do. . .

"Today, we say the only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush."

Noted, Senator.

Elsewhere in his speech, Kennedy quipped:

We bear no ill will toward our opponents. In fact, we'd be happy to have them over for a polite little tea party. I know just the place - right down the road at Boston Harbor.

Yes, folks, that's Ted Kennedy joking about throwing people in the water on the 35th anniversary month of Chappaquiddick. Then again, good taste has never been the Senator's strong point.

Ofc. Krupke at 6:18 PM
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Yesterday I went to the department funeral for one of our officers who was killed last weekend. It wasn't dramatic or heroic - he died like thousands of other people die, on his day off, riding his motorcycle, going to the beach. He was riding alongside his wife when a car pulled out in front of him suddenly, cutting him off. While braking and trying to evade, he laid his bike down and his momentum carried him into an end-over-end crash. They took him to the best trauma center in the Southern City metro area, where he fought for thirteen hours before he was gone. By coincidence, I backed up a state trooper on a traffic stop a day or so later, who had been one of the responding troopers who worked the accident (the highway patrol work all accidents where a law enforcement officer is involved), measuring skid lines and marking the pavement in orange to indicate the impact points. The trooper told me it was surprising that he had lived as long as he had.

Sgt. Spike and I weren't tight buddies, but we had worked together when I was assigned downtown, where he worked as a unit detective. When I met him, he had just returned from a long stretch in Kosovo with his Guard unit. He was always full of jokes and light-hearted teasing, as so many cops are. Even after we both transferred out of downtown, he always remembered me, and never failed to say hi. He liked that I had been in the service, too. I don't recall that I ever saw him without a wide grin on his face. He was forty years old, and four months from his third wedding anniversary.

A number of us mustered at the station at noon, and they bussed us over to the chapel. It was a voluntary detail, but a large crowd of cops were there, and there were officers from elsewhere in the state. They lined us in ranks along the approach to the chapel, and we threw up salutes as the hearse passed, led by a contingent of motor cops from our Traffic division, followed by the limo and his family. The SCPD pipe band played "Amazing Grace". I'm not sure how that became the custom at police funerals (this is my third), but I'll probably never hear that song quite the same way again.

The police and National Guard chaplains spoke about pain and loss and hope, how Spike was one of God's servants, a peacemaker who was called home for reasons that we cannot know in this life. Nothing against the chaplains, and maybe it was just because I had worked midnight shift the night before and was fading fast. But it sounded hollow, and didn't make me feel any better.

I suppose I shouldn't complain. A buddy of mine from the Marines went into the NYPD, and he and his academy class were at One Police Plaza on the morning of 9-11. "I saw all those guys go past," he told me when I was finally able to pierce the jammed cellular networks of New York and talk to him. "And now they're all dead." By the time he graduated, he had been to more police funerals than most cops have the misfortune to attend in their entire careers. When they issued his badge to him, it already had the black mourning band wrapped around it.

The car that had pulled out in front of Spike never stopped, and we're looking for it, although the description is so vague that I'll be very surprised if we find it that way. But still we look, or tell ourselves that we're looking, because we're cops and that's what we do when one of our own goes down.

The Chief of the SCPD and a full bird from the Guard presented flags to Spike's widow and a woman I assume is his mother. The honor guard fired the salute, and then it was all over. Our brother is gone from us.